‘Zero carbon hierarchy’ for homes outlined

Whitehall is confident that all new homes will meet government targets to be zero carbon by 2016, although some of the savings will be made offsite.

John Fiennes, director for sustainable buildings and climate change, Department for Communities and Local Government, spoke at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum on zero carbon buildings this week.

He said that he was confident targets would be met, but there was still some discussion to be had on what would qualify as zero carbon.

Mr Fiennes said there was general consensus on the three-tier hierarchy currently under consideration – that very high energy efficiency must come first, followed by on-site carbon reduction through renewable energy generation with offsite measures making up any shortfall.

He acknowledged that there would be a need to find a balance between off-site solutions that looked like ‘a cheat and a fig leaf’ and the need to set realistically achievable standards for developers.

“When does an offsite solution become offset that undermines the zero carbon concept?” he said.

Where exactly to draw the line on what was required on-site for carbon compliance before developers can look to off-site solutions would be core to the debate, he said, with the final decision having major implications for the renewable energy sector.

He said there are merits for both small scale, decentralised generation and large-scale renewable energy projects.

“Both reach zero but they do have different effects and there are important choices to be made,” he said.

“The carbon compliance decision makes a significant difference to the balance.”

He also warned of potential issues with allowing developers to retrofit surrounding building stock to gain carbon credits.

” What should we do about possible solutions surrounding such as making up for remaining carbon retrofitting?” he said.

“If we get our policy on existing stock right the landscape between now and 2016 may be radically different.

“My personal sense is that some form of allowable offsite solution will be inevitable in the final zero carbon reflecting the decarbonising story for the UK as a whole.”

Sam Bond

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